Yukon North Of Ordinary

News archive for April 23, 2012

MP’s anti-bullying clinic pulled no punches

Yukon MP Ryan Leef hosted his second mixed martial arts (MMA) anti-bullying clinic over the weekend in Haines Junction.


Photo by Vince Fedoroff

DISCOURAGING AGGRESSIVE BEHAVIOUR – Yukon MP Ryan Leef (far left) talks Friday afternoon about the anti-bullying workshop he held in Haines Junction over the weekend. Seen along with Leef are coaches Cliff Schultz (centre) and Sheldon Casselman.

Yukon MP Ryan Leef hosted his second mixed martial arts (MMA) anti-bullying clinic over the weekend in Haines Junction.

Leef has renamed the clinics Leaders for Life. While anti-bullying is still an important aspect, he said, it’s also about building strong community leaders.

“Leaders in Life is something that promotes a well-rounded person, and from that you’re promoting anti-bullying and you’re promoting community leadership, pro-social behaviour, volunteerism, support for your peers and positive relationships with people in your community across all age demographics,” he said in an interview today.

Leef said the clinics also show that the athletes involved in MMA are community leaders.

“That’s where we want youth to start thinking of going and moving into taking on leadership roles in their communities and taking on leadership roles in groups and organizations or just at a single moment in time where there might be a challenge or a decision to make, a responsible decision to make.”

While the turnout was smaller compared to the first clinic held in Carmacks in November 2011, Leef said it was a great day, and the kids had a lot of fun.

“There was some really great interaction between the athletes from Whitehorse and the kids that were there; I think they just really appreciate the time that we take with them and having those kind of opportunities come right into the community,” he said.

Kids in the communities so often have to travel into Whitehorse to take part in some of these activities.

Six or seven boys showed up to the Haines Junction clinic, compared with about 30 kids, both boys and girls, at the Carmacks event.

The group at the past weekend’s clinic was also younger, he said, with everyone under 15. The Carmacks session featured a range with kids between 12 and 18.

The day consisted of a warm-up, and workshops in boxing, kickboxing, wrestling and Brazilian jiu-jitsu.

“I think they probably slept quite well that night when the day was over because we had them working out hard,” said Leef.

Sheldon Casselman, one the coaches at the event and owner of the Chaos Combat MMA club in Whitehorse, said the kids loved it.

“They were very attentive and they responded well to it; the training went very well,” he said. “They wanted to continue, but unfortunately, the time was up.”

This was Casselman’s first time participating in one of Leef’s clinics, and he said he’ll be back for the next one.

“It was a lot of fun, I’ve always liked reaching out to kids, I do seminars at my gym all the time,” he said, “I can’t wait for the next one.

Kluane MLA Wade Istchenko was also at the MMA clinic on Saturday. After he heard about Leef’s first clinic, the Yukon Party MLA thought it would great to have one in his community.

“Having a kid get interested in that and get into the physical fitness end of things, eating a little bit healthier, it keeps them from maybe being on the street corner doing drugs, or breaking and entering, gives them a direction, tweaks their interest; that’s a good thing,” he said.

The turnout probably would have been better earlier in the season, he said, noting that kids are busy this time of year, but overall, it went well.

MMA is the fastest-growing sport in North America, said Leef.

It’s recognized that kids are watching the sport and are interested in it, he added.

The goal of the clinics is to provide access to a venue and athletes, coaches and training techniques so youth get to know the positive aspects of the sport and understand the importance of safety.

“Obviously, moving this away from the playgrounds, going into the gyms with it where there are safety systems in place, where there are coaches in place, where you as an athlete are dedicating yourself to training, and being healthy and being fit,” he said.

Every competitive sport has risks, but “we want to make sure that we’re able to manage the risks and message them to the kids so that nothing unintended occurs when people watch these things on television and think they can replicate them out in the playground.”

The clinics help them realize “there’s a lot more to this than wrestling around.”

It’s sometimes hard to find a way to connect adults and kids, he said, but MMA creates a common ground.

Any program has to resonate with youth, he said, and this does.

Another clinic is planned for September in Whitehorse.

The turnout is expected to be much higher here, and Leef said this will help spread the word about the clinics.

CommentsAdd a comment


May 1, 2012 at 2:50 pm

just what this society needs, if someones harrasing you, beat them up?


May 2, 2012 at 4:24 pm

It has nothing to do with beating someone up. If you have the confidence to stand up to a bully 99 percent of the time they back down. I was bullied as a child and I took judo. NEVER had to actually fight a bully when I finally stood up to them. This society has become way too soft in general. Why stand up for your self when you can just go tell someone which in fact makes the bullying even worse. The positive heath affects are far greater then the actual skills you learn as well.

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